Sure, in a perfect world, the old gal will get one or two more last hurrahs. Powell High School, after all, is in the thick of not only the football playoff hunt, but a conference title hunt as well. If all goes well, the Panthers could bring both …
This Friday, probably somewhere around 10 p.m., the lights will be turned out at Panther Stadium, possibly for the last time ever. A facility that Panther fans have known as home for more than six decades will fade to black. Forever.
Sure, in a perfect world, the old gal will get one or two more last hurrahs. Powell High School, after all, is in the thick of not only the football playoff hunt, but a conference title hunt as well. If all goes well, the Panthers could bring both quarterfinal and semifinal games to town this fall.
But as far as certainties go, this Friday night is it. Those wanting to climb aboard for one last trip around the block need to turn out for the event.
In a way, it’s almost fitting that the final regular season game in the facility will be the latest installment of the Park County rivalry against neighboring Cody. After all, if you’re going to do something special, you might as well invite your closest friends along for the ride. The Broncs and Panthers have certainly engaged in their fair share of barnburners over the years.
To some, the transition from current Panther Stadium to next year’s new facility located out by Powell High School is undoubtedly much ado about nothing. After all, we’re talking about nothing more than several hundred square yards of grass, surrounded by track. If you’ve played on one field, you’ve played on them all.
As any baseball fan will tell you though, there’s something about history. If you’ve set foot on Wrigley Field or Fenway Park, you haven’t just been at “them all.” You’ve been someplace special, someplace hallowed.
You’ve walked among memories.
And when it comes to Panther Stadium, there have been many memories. Out there, on that patch of grass, is where future PHS Wall of Fame member Harold Farmer scored 138 points during the 1950 season. Out there, seven years later, is where Eddie Kawano, also on the Panther Wall of Fame, needed just eight games to erase that mark from the books.
Out there, on a cold November night, is where an estimated 2,000 fans once huddled together and went wild as the Panthers rallied from a three-touchdown deficit to defeat Cody 26-20 and clinch their first Big Horn Basin conference title.
The field hosted the 1957 state champions. The 1966 and 1967 champions also called it home. After a couple decades of absence, the 1987 eleven brought the title back to town again and, following a similar script, the 2006 state champs also began their year at Panther Stadium.
If you listen close between cheers this Friday, you might hear some of those echoes hanging over the place.
There was a certain quaintness to Panther Stadium that will be missed. A field that’s located a few convenient blocks’ walk for many in town will certainly be missed on late summer evenings. The first time a crisp northwest wind blows down out of the Beartooths, off the Polecat Bench and down across the artificial turf of the new Panther Stadium, the many trees and buildings near the stadium will probably be missed.
But not everyone will likely be saying tearful goodbyes. For those who own homes around the stadium, the departure of lights, Friday night traffic and fireworks might come as welcome relief.
Photographers probably won’t shed many tears either. Panther Stadium was first described to me as The Black Hole three years ago. The first time I tried to photograph the Panthers’ black uniforms on a dark Wyoming night, the reason for that moniker became evident.
Love it or hate it, whether your reason be for history or the modern day championship race, Friday night will be a chance to pay homage to a facility Panther teams have known as home for more than 60 years.
Be sure to show up and give the old gal a proper sendoff.